Half-a-Million, Here We Come!
Weekly Update #5

By Chris Rugaber (TMF RFK)

(Dec. 30, 1999) -- The Motley Fool's charitable Foolanthropy drive is kicking into high gear, but we still need your help! If you haven't yet contributed, please do so. The drive ends TOMORROW, so no more procrastination. Now is the time. Giving by credit card over our secure website is ridiculously easy.

So far, we've collected about $450,000, which is more than double last year's total. As our title indicates, we are closing in on the half-million mark, which would be an excellent and wonderful reflection of the generosity of all you Fools out there. Of course, $600,000 would be an even more wonderful reflection. So let's not be bashful! Here are the most recent numbers:
Donate to a Foolanthropy Charity. Click here.

Foodchain:                     $142,429
Grameen Foundation USA:        $134,630
Heifer Project International:   $90,129
Make-A-Wish Foundation�:        $43,720
Polycystic Kidney Research:     $42,603

TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS:           $453,511

Number of contributions:           3178   
Average contribution:           $106.09
(The preceding two numbers refer only to donations given via credit card at Fool.com.)

Those numbers are great! Thanks to everyone who has contributed. Note the number of contributors, though -- it must be said that this is a fairly small proportion of our million-and-a-half visitors or so in the past month.

Recently, an indication of why this charity drive is so important popped up in The New York Times, which ran an article in mid-December discussing the difficulties many social service organizations are having in meeting the demand for their services, despite our boom times. The article begins, "As incomes of the better-off Americans rise in this age of prosperity, with the stock market and corporate profits booming, charities report that both individuals and companies are donating less to organizations that support the homeless, the young, the hungry than they did in leaner times."

While overall charitable giving is up, as the Times notes, "about 90 percent of the money goes to religious organizations, some of which operate services for the poor, and to other organizations� like the opera, ballet, museums, and universities." While these are surely worthy recipients, they clearly have different missions than social service charities. One organization, Giving USA, has calculated that giving to "human services" organizations as a proportion of overall philanthropy has declined from 13.9% in 1970 to 9.2% in 1998.

Increased philanthropy is wonderful, in other words, but it does not always translate into more services and opportunities for the less well-off.

Services and opportunities, by the way, are what our Foolish charities provide. Let's do a quick survey of the five charities you can contribute to and you'll see what I mean. Foodchain is a national "food rescue" operation, which collects leftover food from restaurants, caterers, and hotels, and then delivers it to charitable groups that provide it to the poor, elderly, and homeless. Foodchain also operates "community kitchens" in about 20 cities, which serve food to the poor and also provide job training. As a result, Foodchain is not just a stopgap effort, but provides many recipients with job skills as well as temporary assistance.

The Grameen Foundation USA also provides opportunity, in the form of microcredit loans to poor individuals so they can start their own businesses. Any donation you make to Grameen continues into perpetuity, as it is loaned out, then repaid, then loaned out again, and so on. How Foolish is that?

The Heifer Project International operates under similar principles of self-sustaining charity to help people become more self-sufficient. Donations are used to buy various animals, ranging from bees to livestock, to help feed recipients, who also sell things like milk, eggs, or honey that the animals produce. As the animals produce offspring, they are given to other needy people, and so your donation may continue to provide far into the future.

The Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Research Foundation has a slightly different focus, but its work is no less important. Over 12 million people worldwide have PKD, more than for all of the following diseases combined: cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, Down's syndrome, and sickle cell anemia. Your donation will go to much-needed research toward a cure.

Finally, the Make-A-Wish Foundation helps make dreams come true for children with life-threatening illnesses. The organization has fulfilled 66,000 wishes so far, including 8,100 in 1999. With your donation, they can help even more children.

For more information on these five worthy causes, click on "The Chosen Charities" link on the right. Thanks for your time and attention, though it's worth pointing out that you could have donated with your credit card in less time than it took to read this article! So be sure to click on the "Contribute Online" link as well.

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